In an effort to spruce up one of the city’s main thoroughfares, Miami Gardens is re-exploring plans to create a community redevelopment agency, which would siphon property taxes from general services like police and transit in order to focus spending within the city.
The city wants to use some of the funding opportunities provided through a CRA to build a performing arts center. They would focus on developing around it in a plan that Mayor Oliver Gilbert compared to the establishment of the Omni CRA in Miami.
“This is the only mechanism that the manager and I could identify that wouldn’t have a significant impact on the general fund,” Gilbert said at a recent meeting. “It’s a shame that if you want to go to a play, a concert, a banquet, you’ve got to leave the city.”
The city council approved a finding-of-necessity report done by Keith and Schnars, a Fort Lauderdale consulting firm, at their March 9 council meeting and plan to move forward in discussions with Miami-Dade County.
The planned location is along Northwest 27th Avenue, one of the city’s main thoroughfares. Residents and elected officials have hoped to see the street developed since the city’s incorporation in 2003.
City Manager Cameron Benson said the area continues to draw attention. In the past few years, an Aldi store, Sonic Beach restaurant and other shopping areas have sprung up. Northwest 27th Avenue will also be home to a Wawa convenience store in early 2017.
The city’s firm was initially brought in to study the creation of a Miami Gardens CRA in 2014 and a boundary that would cover about 2.6 square miles in the city. While the latest proposal is focused on the arts center, the firm included other main streets like Northwest Second Avenue in their report since the city has received investment attention in the area including plans for a Topgolf facility near the U.S. 441 corridor.
“Right now, the larger interest seems to be on 27th Avenue. But as we move closer to closing with Topgolf that will lead to investment [on Second Avenue],” Benson said.
As the city makes these plans, CRAs in Miami-Dade are under increased scrutiny, and a grand jury report released in February criticized many of the area tax districts saying that their focus centered on personal projects and not on the goals of eliminating slum and blight.
City leaders hope to avoid any issues by taking a modest approach in how they complete projects. They plan to encourage future investment around their larger developments while also keeping concerns from the grand jury report in mind.
“I don’t want us to get into a situation where we’re just doing things in a hodgepodge manner and there’s nothing cohesive,” Benson said. “We’ve got to make sure we don’t do anything that leads us into criticism.”
Benson added that he thinks the CRA may also be helpful in rehabbing and improving large blighted properties like the former Parkway Hospital site near the Palmetto Expressway and Golden Glades Interchange.
The city’s plan is in its early stages. Benson intends to bring the firm back to present their findings and receive community input.